Connacht edge past Munster in Irish derby

Planet Rugby

Bundee AKI of Connacht during the United Rugby Championship Round 4 match between Munster Rugby and Connacht Rugby at Thomond Park in Limerick, Ireland on October 16, 2021 (Photo by Andrew SURMA/ SIPA USA).

Connacht produced a controlled second half display to take the spoils in their Irish derby with Munster following a narrow 10-8 triumph at the Sportsground.

The Limerick outfit were the better side in the opening period and went into the break 8-3 ahead thanks to Andrew Conway’s try and Ben Healy’s penalty.

However, the hosts improved after the interval and had much of the territory and possession, which was rewarded by Bundee Aki’s converted try.

They pressed for further scores in the final quarter but, despite their profligacy, it did not matter as the visitors failed to fire a shot in the second half.

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Andy Friend’s men ruined a promising early maul with obstruction, yet a sharp break by Kieran Marmion preceded an opening 14th-minute penalty from captain Jack Carty.

Munster fly-half Healy quickly replied with a levelling three-pointer, punishing a block by Ultan Dillane. The hosts then conceded a try out of nothing.

Mack Hansen had a clearance kick charged down by Healy, Shane Daly nudged the ball on and Conway dotted down unchallenged in the left corner.

Although Healy missed the difficult conversion, Munster’s well-balanced back row continued to make inroads.

Nonetheless, Hansen did well to deny Conway before Munster’s pack emerged scoreless from a number of late tap penalties.

The niggly exchanges continued on the way to the dressing rooms, some pushing and shoving landing both Healy and Connacht hooker Shane Delahunt in the bin.

With Carty off injured, replacement Conor Fitzgerald’s superb hands had the Connacht attack humming before he missed a penalty.

Mike Haley then had to react sharply to thwart Marmion’s brilliant solo break from an interception.

Following a missed penalty from Healy, Munster were down to 14 men again when Farrell made ‘head-to-head’ contact with his namesake.

With mitigation, referee Busby produced his yellow card, but Munster were soon behind their posts – a cracking maul sending Aki over and Fitzgerald converted in terrific fashion.

Munster tightened up their defence, twice turning over Aki. However, Connacht dominated possession during the closing stages and deservedly finished on top.

Scarlets beat Ospreys thanks to late Johnny McNicholl brace

Johnny McNicholl scored two tries in the final quarter to earn a 22-19 victory for the Scarlets in a hard-fought Welsh derby played behind closed doors in Llanelli.

Because of Covid-related postponements, it was the Scarlets’ first appearance on the field since October 22 and their resolve was rewarded with a match-winning try from McNicholl three minutes from time.

Gareth Davies and Steff Evans also scored tries for the Scarlets, with Dan Jones adding a conversion.

Rhys Webb touched down twice for the Ospreys either side of a Luke Morgan try, while Josh Thomas kicked two conversions.